It’s climbing season again on Mount Everest, and like most years, it looks to be a busy time at high altitude. The peak period for reaching the summit is a few short weeks in late April and early May, and reports say at least 32 expeditions are planned from the Nepal side. That makes for quite a crowd trying to inchworm its way up the mountain. Tempers, no doubt, will flare.
Just a few days ago, in a widely reported story, things did get out of hand when a crowd of Sherpas fought with three foreign climbers in a dispute over fixing ropes on the route high up the mountain. In a story for National Geographic News, Brot Coburn provides good context for understanding the relationship between Sherpas and foreign climbers, one that has been and continues to be positive in almost all respects. Jon Krakauer’s bestselling book from 1997, Into Thin Air, illustrates how badly things can go wrong when the mountain gets crowded and the weather changes.
But most of us don’t need to worry about the crush of climbers on the route above base camp. Elite mountaineers climb, the rest of us hike — or trek, as they say in Nepal.
John Flinn wrote recently in the San Francisco Chronicle about his return to the Khumbu, the local name for the Everest region, after 22 years. His story, “Into Thin Hair” (retitled on the Chronicle website) brought back memories of my treks in the area, the first in 1979, the most recent in 2002. As John conveys, if he can do it, you can do it.
That’s how I feel about my treks there. If you take your time, don’t push yourself, and get into reasonably good shape before you go, you should be fine. John sure got me interested in returning. The thin air, indescribably dramatic mountains, and welcoming Sherpa culture are heady stuff. Not to be treated as a once-in-a-lifetime experience.